John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 November 22, 1963), often referred to as John F. Kennedy, JFK, or Jack Kennedy, was the 35th President of the United States. He served from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. A member of ...
Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. If a free society cannot help the many who are
poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind. War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.
Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.
World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor -- it requires only that they live together with mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement.
I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.
I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.
If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to allexcept the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.
Dont teach my boy poetry, an English mother recently wrote the Provost of Harrow. Dont teach my boy poetry; he is going to stand for Parliament. Well, perhaps she was rightbut if more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place to live on this Commencement Day of 1956.
We stand today on the edge of a new frontier -- the frontier of the 1960s, a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats. The new frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises -- it is a set of challenges.
The great battleground for the defense and expansion of freedom today is the whole southern half of the globe... the lands of the rising peoples. Their revolution is the greatest in human history. They seek an end to injustice, tyranny and exploitation. More than an end, they seek a beginning.
There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war, and some men are wounded, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. It's very hard in military or personal life to assure complete equality. Life
There is a terrific disadvantage in not having the abrasive quality of the press applied to you daily. Even though we never like it, and even though we wish they didn't write it, and even though we disapprove, there isn't any doubt that we could not do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.
But peace does not rest in the charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper, let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace in the hearts and minds of all of our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.
When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.
Most of us are conditioned for many years to have a political viewpoint -- Republican or Democratic, liberal, conservative, or moderate. The fact of the matter is that most of the problems that we now face are technical problems, are administrative problems. They are very sophisticated judgments, which do not lend themselves to the great sort of passionate movements which have stirred this country so often in the past. [They] deal with questions which are now beyond the comprehension of most men.
As far as the job of President goes, its rewarding and I've given before this group the definition of happiness for the Greeks. I'll define it again: the full use of your powers along lines of excellence. I find, therefore, that the Presidency provides some happiness.
The day before my inauguration President Eisenhower told me, You'll find that no easy problems ever come to the President of the United States. If they are easy to solve, somebody else has solved them. I found that hard to believe, but now I know it is true.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.
There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. Its very hard in military or in personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.
Lobbyists are in many cases expert technicians and capable of explaining complex and difficult subjects in a clear, understandable fashion. They engage in personal discussions with Members of Congress in which they can explain in detail the reasons for positions they advocate. Because our congressional representation is based on geographical boundaries, the lobbyists who speak for the various economic, commercial, and other functional interests of this country serve a very useful purpose and have assumed an important role in the legislative process.
For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived, and dishonest -- but the myth --persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinions without the discomfort of thought.
So let us here resolve that Dag Hammarskjold did not live, or die, in vain. Let us call a truce to terror. Let us invoke the blessings of peace. And, as we build an international capacity to keep peace, let us join in dismantling the national capacity to wage war.
Of course, both major parties today seek to serve the national interest. They would do so in order to obtain the broadest base of support, if for no nobler reason. But when party and officeholder differ as to how the national interest is to be served, we must place first the responsibility we owe not to our party or even to our constituents but to our individual consciences.
And so it is that I carry with me from this State to that high and lonely office to which I now succeed more than fond memories and fast friendships. The enduring qualities of Massachusettsthe common threads woven by the Pilgrim and the Puritan, the fisherman and the farmer, the Yankee and the immigrantwill not be and could not be forgotten in the Nations Executive Mansion. They are an indelible part of my life, my convictions, my view of the past, my hopes for the future.
Well, I am reading more and enjoying it less[laughter]and so on, but I have not complained nor do I plan to make any general complaints. I read and talk to myself about it, but I dont plan to issue any general statement on the press. I think that they are doing their task, as a critical branch, the fourth estate. And I am attempting to do mine. And we are going to live together for a period, and then go our separate ways. [Laughter].
And if we are to open employment opportunities in this country for members of all races and creeds, then the Federal Government must set an example. The President himself must set the key example. I am not going to promise a Cabinet post or any other post to any race or ethnic group. That is racism in reverse at its worst. So I do not promise to consider race or religion in my appointments if I am successful. I promise only that I will not consider them.
For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of usrecording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the stateour success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:First, were we truly men of couragewith the courage to stand up to ones enemiesand the courage to stand up, when necessary, to ones associatesthe courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?Secondly, were we truly men of judgmentwith perceptive judgment of the future as well as the pastof our mistakes as well as the mistakes of otherswith enough wisdom to know what we did not know and enough candor to admit it. Third, were we truly men of integritymen who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the men who believed in usmen whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?Finally, were we truly men of dedicationwith an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and comprised of no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest?Couragejudgmentintegritydedicationthese are the historic qualities which, with Gods help will characterize our Governments conduct in the 4 stormy years that lie ahead.
As they say on my own Cape Cod, a rising tide lifts all the boats. And a partnership, by definition, serves both partners, without domination or unfair advantage. Together we have been partners in adversitylet us also be partners in prosperity.
And we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscientthat we are only 6 percent of the worlds populationthat we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankindthat we cannot right every wrong or reverse every adversityand that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.
First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. I believe we should go to the moon. But there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful.
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said Because it is there. Well, space is there, and were going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there.
In its [knowledges] light, we must think and act not only for the moment but for our time. I am reminded of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.
I dont think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Viet-Nam, against the Communists.
This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.
This increase in the life span and in the number of our senior citizens presents this Nation with increased opportunities: the opportunity to draw upon their skill and sagacityand the opportunity to provide the respect and recognition they have earned. It is not enough for a great nation merely to have added new years to lifeour objective must also be to add new life to those years.
Without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men have lived. The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he mustin spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressuresand that is the basis of all human morality. In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his consciencethe loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow meneach man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredientthey can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.
So, let us not be blind to our differencesbut let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.
I ask that you offer to the political arena, and to the critical problems of our society which are decided therein, the benefit of the talents which society has helped to develop in you. I ask you to decide, as Goethe put it, whether you will be an anvilor a hammer. The question is whether you are to be a hammerwhether you are to give to the world in which you were reared and educated the broadest possible benefits of that education.
Now the trumpet summons us againnot as a call to bear arms, though arms we neednot as a call to battle, though embattled we arebut a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulationa struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.
We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will talk sense to the American people. But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.
Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the worldor to make it the last.
Is this Nation stating it cannot afford to spend an additional $600 million to help the developing nations of the world become strong and free and independentan amount less than this countrys annual outlay for lipstick, face cream, and chewing gum?
To those peoples in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is requirednot because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
We in this country, in this generation, areby destiny rather than choicethe watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of peace on earth, good will toward men. That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolutewhere no Catholic prelate would tell the President how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to votewhere no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preferenceand where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewishwhere no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical sourcewhere no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officialsand where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jewor a Quakeror a Unitarianor a Baptist. It was Virginias harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jeffersons statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victimbut tomorrow it may be youuntil the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril. Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday endwhere all men and all churches are treated as equalwhere every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choicewhere there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kindand where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood. That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believea great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the Nation or imposed by the Nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth Gods work must truly be our own.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for youask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.
There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was also the age of Shakespeare. And the New Frontier for which I campaign in public life, can also be a New Frontier for American art.
To further the appreciation of culture among all the people, to increase respect for the creative individual, to widen participation by all the processes and fulfillments of artthis is one of the fascinating challenges of these days.